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On This Day in MMA History: The UFC Holds Its First (and Last) Ever 16-Man Tournament at UFC 2: No Way Out

On This Day in MMA History” pays tribute to some of the more bizarre and infamous moments from MMA’s past. Twenty years ago today (!), on March 11th, 1994, the UFC held the only 16-man, one-night tournament in promotional history at UFC 2. It was…epic to say the least. 

No weight classes, no time limits, no judges, and up to four fights in one night. Yes, the early nineties truly were a time when men were men. That was at least according to the rules of UFC 2: No Way Out, which somehow managed to up the ante from the promotion’s first event the previous November.

Taking place on the evening of March 11th, 1994, UFC 2 pitted previous tournament contestants Patrick Smith, Jason Delucia, and UFC 1 winner Royce Gracie against a gaggle of unknowns in what would become the promotion’s first and last ever sixteen-man, one-night tournament.

As expected, the tournament served as little more than an informercial for the superiority of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu once again. In just over 9 minutes of total fight time, Gracie dominated Minoki Ichihara, Delucia, Remco Pardoel, and Morris to claim his second straight tournament victory. Being that the UFC has long since abandoned the one-night tournament format due to safety concerns, Royce’s four victories at UFC 2 stands as a record that will likely never be broken in the UFC.

But aside from providing us with the biggest tournament in promotional history, we also have UFC 2 to thank for:

-Two of the most one-sided beatdowns to ever occur in the octagon: Patrick Smith vs. Scott Morris (see above) and the near homicide that was Fred Ettish vs. Johnny Rhodes

-The debut of legendary referee Big John McCarthy, who got off to a rough start in his officiating of such fights as Pat Smith vs. Scott Morris (again, see above)

-The first lapel choke in UFC history (actually, the first two)

-*Nine* finishes that came in under three minutes (for more information on this, see your mother)

Perhaps it’s appropriate that, some twenty years after UFC 2, Kenny Monday’s Battlegrounds promotion is attempting to kickstart the one-night tournament format once again. Because while today’s classy, wine-sipping, FOX-endorsed MMA landscape may have evolved out of a brutal, barbaric form of human cockfighting (as some called it), there were still some good ideas to be found in the early UFC events, and the one-night tournament remains the most captivating, dramatic format for a sport as inherently dramatic as MMA to this day.

-J. Jones

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